Life after winning the Zurich Innovation Championship
Gold winner Ron Glozman talks about what it takes for your startup to succeed in the ZIC. Hint: creating your own luck is a big part of it.
Ron Glozman, founder and chief executive of Chisel AI, is the gold award winner of the first Zurich Innovation Championship that wrapped up in 2019. In an interview, he talks about his experience as we launch the 2020 Championship.
The Toronto-based technology provider Chisel AI wowed judges with its artificial intelligence product, which can read commercial insurance documents 400 times faster than a human − and with much greater accuracy. By freeing skilled people from repetitive, mundane tasks, AI allows them to concentrate on what really matters: customers.
As the 2020 Innovation Championship gets underway, Ron Glozman recalls his tournament experience, how winning has boosted his business and offers his top tips for this year’s entrants.
Zurich Insurance Group (ZIG): Hi, Ron, could you tell us a little about your company?
Ron Glozman (RG): Chisel AI is a natural language processing platform focused on helping the insurance industry improve and automate workflows. To date we have four solutions that we're bringing to market.
Our main focus today is in the commercial insurance space. Everything we do is powered by our artificial intelligence platform.
ZIG: How has Chisel AI benefited as gold winner of the Zurich Innovation Championship?
RG: Oh, my goodness, it's changed the business. Having the stamp of approval from a company like Zurich, a global Fortune 500 company, just does wonders for the business. Literally, the next day after we won, we got more demo requests than we had ever had before in a single day and I would solely attribute that to the press that was coming out about the Innovation Championship.
Our website traffic saw a dramatic increase and, just from the press conference on occasion of the global final, we ended up starting conversations with other customers and now some of them are moving into pilots. It also validated us with investors, showing what we’re talking about is something the insurance industry cares about. So, it really moved the needle.
ZIG: How did you hear about the Zurich Innovation Championship?
RG: It was 5 p.m. local time on the last day of InsureTech Connect in Las Vegas 2018 and we were winding down, and this senior architect at Zurich walks up. I swear to you, nobody had any energy left. We had spent three days talking with all these prospects. We just wanted to go home.
The Zurich guy mentioned that he'd heard about Chisel AI and he'd love for us to apply. We were really tired, and already feeling good about all the contacts we made, when someone from Zurich happened to stop by, suggesting we apply for the contest.
I'm a big believer in creating your own luck and luck is the result of hard work. I think this is the embodiment of us being at the right place at the right time, but we also took the initiative − even when we were tired, even after the event was closed − put on a game face, went the extra mile and, at the end of the day, it clearly turned out for the best.
"I'm a big believer in you can create your own luck and luck is the result of hard work"
ZIG: What happened next?
RG: We were one of 20 companies selected to participate as a North America pitch and came out as one of the two winners.
We went to Switzerland for the Global Final − a three-day event and it involved a practice round, coaching, and meeting with stakeholders and leaders. The final day was a pitch to 13 executives, essentially the Executive Committee and Group CEO Mario Greco.
ZIG: What’s your advice to others on how to succeed in the competition?
RG: All the solutions could be equally impactful, but it comes down to how well you can communicate and also how well you can take the feedback. I really believe that you learn a lot more from listening than from speaking, because when you speak, you're only saying what you know. If you're listening, you might learn something new.
For example, rather than taking the approach of saying ‘Oh, I actually know how you guys do business somewhere,’ it was my job to listen and ask questions. How do you do business in one country that is different from how you do business in another? What would you like to see as an innovation in a specific market? It doesn’t necessarily have to be the same innovation as in our market.
"Having the stamp of approval from a company like Zurich, a global Fortune 500 company, just does wonders for the business."
ZIG: What happened when you won?
RG: Zurich hosted a press conference and there were three podiums on stage.
After Giovanni Giuliani had called the five runners-up, we knew we were in the top three. Between knowing we weren’t the third or second-place winner and going up on stage, I had about two minutes to prepare a speech.
ZIG: Two minutes! That’s a lot of pressure in a short time to come up with a speech!
RG: I was sweating. I was sweating quite profusely.
But I got to go up there, they awarded me a really, really nice trophy, we spent the day celebrating and taking pictures, had a really nice dinner afterwards and then took some time off to snowboard in Switzerland!
Zurich Innovation Championship
The Zurich Innovation Championship is a global contest for established startups. It seeks startups as contestants who, like Ron at Chisel AI, are good at being flexible and thinking outside the box. Entries should have commercially viable solutions. Our theme this year is ‘Protecting the Next Generation,’ and the solutions definitely should aim to tackle the biggest issues we’re facing today to make a difference to tomorrow’s generations. Entrants may have a new approach that will revolutionize challenges in climate, health or automation in the workforce. Or they might just generally push the boundaries of transformation and enter as a ‘wildcard.’ Up for a challenge? Here’s where to apply!